Trainings for Agencies
1. Creating A Transformative Environment
The challenge in working with people from diverse backgrounds, especially, those who have been struggling with poverty, trauma, or homelessness, is how to support change and growth without having the time or resources to do extensive personal work with them. This was the problem we faced at First Place Family Center, since they see between 225-350 families with children each month and the primary mandate is the provision of basic needs.
In order to best serve and support the families, given limited resources, we focused on some basic principles about how certain ways of being with people can create an environment that maximizes the likelihood of their making more effective life choices. The principles and approaches covered in this training apply both to working in group settings and in one-to-one contacts as we go about our day.
It has become clear, through both experience and current research in neurobiology, that change primarily comes because of specific ways of relating to each other. Those are characterized as being free of shaming, perceiving others as defective, or thinking that people are stuck in their situation solely because of making bad choices.
The foundation of being effective in our contacts with people is an understanding of what current brain science teaches us about the actual process of making decisions and taking action. In a very real sense, everyone does the best they are able all the time, based on their beliefs about themselves, the world, and their place in the world. This has huge implications regarding what is actually effective in our work with others.
Being able to replace our negative appraisal of someone with real curiosity about their world has the power to change both our state of mind and the person’s experience of the world and themselves in that moment.
There have been great strides in our understanding of the sources of people’s behaviors over the last dozen years because of advances in the field of neurobiology, especially a subset currently labeled Interpersonal Neurobiology.
Our state of mind directly affects a person’s response to us, especially in stressful situations. Similarly, their state of mind also impacts our feelings, perceptions and choices at the same time. All of this mostly takes place below conscious awareness and greatly affects the outcome of our encounters with others.
Drawing from some of the latest research in neurobiology and its application to working with people, we lay a foundation for understanding the way the brain both seeks to protect us and, in the process, keeps us locked into old patterns of behavior. These understanding are a first step in being able to recognize how our automatic response patterns limit our effectiveness and even our job satisfaction.
2. Poverty 101, Applied: Understanding People Who Were Raised In Generational Poverty
This training builds on the work of Dr. Donna Beegle, Ph.D. in understanding how to assist people who, like her, were raised in multi-generational poverty to move permanently out of poverty into a more stable life.
After completing his trainings with Donna, William spent the next eight years applying her insights and methods at First Place Family Center.
People who have been raised in long-term poverty have developed ways of approaching life as different from the working/middle class as someone who was raised on a reservation or in rural Mexico.
Unfortunately, the strategies that help a person survive while living in poverty make it hard to get out of poverty. It also makes it hard to relate to people who weren’t. By having a better understanding of the world as experienced by people who were raised in poverty, we are able to better assist them in navigating their journey toward a more stable life.
Dr. Donna Beegle grew up in ghetto poverty, the daughter of a father addicted to alcohol and a mother with an eighth-grade education. At 27, as a mother of two children, she enrolled in Portland State’s Women In Transitionprogram, planning to get her GED. To make a long story short, ten years later she had a Master’s Degree in Communication and a Ph.D. in Education.
Her Ph.D. research studied people who came from at least three generations of deep poverty who had obtained a Bachelor’s Degree. She wanted to know what had allowed them to move out of poverty and make a better life for themselves. Her findings form the basis of this workshop.
3. Models & Maps of Human Behavior
This training similarly broadens the scope of our understanding to encompass both those with whom we work and live and ourselves. Using models taken from a number of areas of psychology and neurobiology, we extend our ability to understand why we and others often get stuck in old patterns of behavior.
This training is designed to provide a basic foundation for becoming more conscious and effective, both in our work and in our lives. It can be difficult to shift our perceptions of others without a more detailed understanding of why a particular person or group acts the way they do.
There are two main intended outcomes. First, having shared language and mental models are necessary if we want to think and talk about something, whether it is about sailing, golf, or people’s behavior.
Second, having a sense of the basic beliefs which shape a person’s world, and the likely source of those beliefs, allows us be strategic and compassionate in our approach and interventions.
One of the most useful tools we can have, whether we’re working individually or as part of a team, is some common models and maps that allow us to think and talk about people’s behaviors and stuck places. This can make it easier to stay out of negative judgments and can provide information that is useful in knowing how we might best approach assisting them on their journey. In a team setting, this is especially important.
You may have heard the saying “A map is not the territory…” a phrase that seems to discount the value of maps. The actual quote is actually: “A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.”Alfred Korzybski, General Semantics
The most surprising finding, as we explore human behavior, is that almost everything the average person believes about why people act the way they do is wrong. Most “problems” are actually symptoms of larger, mostly unconscious, processes.When we focus on the “problem,” we lack traction in working for change.
This series of classes introduces several empirical models that have proven themselves useful over the years. Often, we knew what worked but didn’t know why. The field of neurobiology has shed light on the mechanisms which support change and the role of the change agents involved.
The story of the Three Blind Men and the Elephant encapsulates the reason for teaching several different maps.
Three blind men came upon an elephant. One took hold of the trunk and declared “an elephant is like a snake.” Another, holding the tail, said “no, it is like a rope.” The third, arms around a leg, said “you are both wrong. It is like a tree.” If they were willing to listen to each other, they would have a had a more complete understanding of the elephant.
The complexities of human behavior escape being summarized by any known map or model. Still, each model, if it has been found useful, gives us language and some clues on how to proceed. Like the men in the above story, having multiple complementary models of behavior can give us a more complete understanding than any one alone.
The classes are easy to understand by all levels of staff. They also help us understand many things most of us have observed for ourselves. The trainings draw from Transactional Analysis, Bowen Family Systems, Characterological Development, Motivational Interviewing, Hakomi Therapy, neurobiologists David Eagleman and Lisa Feldman Barrett, and psychiatrists Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon,among others.
The material can be presented in an integrated fashion or broken down into basic two-hour segments as listed below:
Basic Human Needs & Survival Strategies (Characterological Development)
Family Systems, Symptom Development, & the Roots of Codependence
Chronic Anxiety, Ambivalence, Making contact, & creating rapport